Few names carry more cachet than Bill Bensley’s when it comes to resort design in Asia. Dubbed as the “king of exotic luxury resorts” by TIME Magazine, Bensley has an impressive portfolio of hotel properties that are unconventional and theatrical with an impeccable attention to detail. Bensley’s latest project, JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, continues to build on his already impressive legacy with a property that delivers enriching experiences and intuitive service that every JW Marriott guest comes to expect.
JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay’s design narrative was developed around the concept of a mythical academy of learning, honouring French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck who laid the groundwork for Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The JW Marriott brand is globally renowned for its intuitive service and commitment to providing guests with truly enriching luxurious experiences and the partnership with Bill Bensley complements the designer’s philosophy of creating hotels that demonstrate his passion for learning. His vision is for JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay to become a destination where guests leave inspired.
“Many people consider university to be the most memorable time of their lives,” says Bill Bensley, chief architect and designer of JW Marriott Phu Quoc. “I’ve always wanted to create a resort with this theme because of the profound influence my university studies had on my work. The scale of this project, together with the spectacular setting, gave me the perfect opportunity to bring the story of Lamarck University to life ensuring that guests leave richer than when they arrive, a core expectation for JW Marriott guests.”
Overseeing the master planning and design of the entire property, Bensley separated the enormous site into different zones, all of them connected via the Rue de Lamarck, the main street that extends through the whole resort. The JW Marriott Phu Quoc buildings reflect early 20th Century style and embrace the traditions of French colonial architecture.
Every detail, down to the decorative elements and associates’ uniforms, have been carefully crafted and considered by Bensley to reinforce the resort’s overarching theme. The Phu Quoc Ridgeback, a native dog breed, is the mascot of the hotel and design details reflecting the mascot can be seen in various areas of the property.
The 244 guestrooms, suites and villas are spread throughout different wings, giving guests the experience of being in their own dedicated section of the resort. Playing on the concept of academia, the accommodation wings are named after different academic departments. Taking full advantage of the idyllic views, all rooms and suites are ocean-facing and include a spacious balcony with sofa seating. Guests staying on the ground level will also have their own private garden and direct access to the three swimming pools of the resort.
Complementing the emerald-colored sea and the lush surrounding landscape, Bensley has picked a palate of warming reds, turquoise, blues and greens for the interiors. Custom-designed furnishings in dark timber and patterned flooring further elevate the sense of comfort and luxury in the rooms, and throughout the resort’s walkway.
Along Rue de Lamarck, traditional shophouses built to resemble the ancient streets of Hoi An highlight a unique blend of Chinese, Japanese and Western architectural influences offering visitors an authentic sense of place. Visitors can stroll the street to find the most exquisite artisanal boutiques, the resort’s varied dining outlets and one of the best spas on Phu Quoc island.
The French have long believed the therapeutic qualities of mushrooms. Playing on this idea, the designer has created an unusual guest experience in Chanterelle – Spa by JW by incorporating references from Alice in Wonderland where mushrooms played a key role. Mushroom-shaped furnishings and hand-painted walls of flora and fauna can be spotted throughout, while framed biological illustrations of mushrooms adorn the interior ceilings, adding to the fantastical and surreal quality of the space. Bensley also took inspiration from the childhood fable for a hidden corridor, where asymmetric arches curve at mirroring angles to create a layering effect, echoing Alice falling down the rabbit hole.
Enriching culinary experiences are at the heart of all JW Marriott hotels, and it’s no exception at JW Marriott Phu Quoc where Tempus Fugit, the all-day dining restaurant. French&Co., the hotel’s pâtisserie and gourmet deli, is reminiscent of a classic French café with its relaxing ambience and interior décor, including the cast iron oven and antique scales.
At Chemistry, the resort’s cocktail bar located by Emerald Bay, guests can relax on one of the swinging daybeds or lounge seats while sipping on signature concoctions by in-house “chemists.” Every detail in the bar was created with a chemistry lab in mind: serving counters are decorated with beakers and scientific instruments; the ceiling is designed with a periodic table and matched with a striking atom-shaped light. Red Rum, the beach grill, boasts a casual vibe in an open-air pavilion and features an intricate hanging chandelier crafted from hundreds of seashells. Finally, The Pink Pearl, housed inside a splendid 2-storey mansion, will be the resort’s beachfront fine dining Cantonese restaurant.
Bensley’s imaginative touch extends beyond the restaurant outlets into the meeting rooms and banqueting facilities. The property’s grand ballroom, named the Lamarck Auditorium, showcases a series of vintage atlases. Meanwhile, the separate meeting spaces each tell a unique, whimsical story such as The Artist, a meeting room inspired by Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings which incorporate a bold lighting fixture constructed from large paint brushes, showcases JW Marriott’s commitment to culture.
To add to the authenticity of the whimsical design, Bensley’s team traveled across Europe multiple times to source over 5,000 original antiques and furniture items for the resort. Guests can expect to discover vintage furniture, teaching paraphernalia, carpentry tools, prints and sketches showcasing the evolution of mankind and nature, as well as other hidden gems throughout the well-crafted and intuitively designed resort.
Shaped by natural beauty, pristine white sand beach and favourable weather year-round; Phu Quoc island is a hidden pearl off the beaten tourist track. Located 45 kilometres off the southern coast of Vietnam, the island can be reached via a direct 40-minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City. The resort is a 15-minute drive from Phu Quoc International Airport. For more information, please visit the hotel website.